UM sees NCAA Tournament hopes crumble in OT loss
Champaign, Ill. — It was almost like déjà vu all over again.
Overtime has turned into a bugaboo for Michigan this season — and with their season outlook hanging in the balance, the Wolverines took another gut punch to the NCAA Tournament hopes.
UM squandered a seven-point lead in the final five minutes and fell to Illinois, 64-52, overtime, before a record crowd of 17,087 at the State Farm Center.
On the same court where they clinched the Big Ten title last season, the Wolverines (13-12, 6-7 Big Ten) likely had their smoldering hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid snuffed out. It's their fourth straight loss and fifth in the last six — including three in overtime.
"We're not great at anything right now and that gets exposed sometimes in games," coach John Beilein said.
Much like its overtime loss to Michigan State — where UM was scoreless in overtime — UM was struggled offensively in the extra period and was outscored, 14-2.
"As hard as we work — and we're in great shape — with some of our young guys and some of our older guys, it's tough to sustain that energy without having the depth that you probably need in a game with this type of impact," Beilein said. "I hate to lose I'm but really proud of my team. They're playing as hard as they can play and we're a few plays away from getting another great victory, a road victory, but it didn't happen, and we move on."
Spike Albrecht had 13 points, including a 3-pointer that gave Michigan a 48-41 lead with 5:12 remaining, and a floater with 3:14 that pushed the lead back to seven.
But Illinois (17-8, 7-5) responded with a layup by Rayvonte Rice and a jumper by Kendrick Nunn (21 points) to cut the lead to three. Nunn tied it at 50 on a 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining.
UM had a chance to try to win in the final seconds of regulation, but had trouble inbounding the ball because of Illinois' lengthy players and turned the ball over with four seconds left, giving the Illini a chance at a final shot.
"A lot of people have inbounds issues with that. They had fouls to give as well," Beilein said. "Spike is our best passer — I could have put a taller player out there and they might throw it away. Thank goodness we didn't throw it away, but we didn't execute the way we'd like to."
Nunn hit two free throws to start overtime and Michigan had a turnover and the close game turned quickly into a rout.
The Illini scored the first 14 points — and Nnanna Egwu had all six of his points — before Michigan finally got on the board with two free throws by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with 14.3 seconds left.
"This is our third straight overtime game we've lost. It's just tough," said freshman Aubrey Dawkins, who had nine points before fouling out. "We've got to figure out a way to fight within ourselves to push through the fatigue or the doubts in our minds to get a bucket and get a win out there."
Both teams struggled early from the field, as Michigan started 2-of-13 on field goals and Illinois 2-of-9. The Illini used an 8-0 run — with a 3-pointer and a jumper from Ahmad Starks (12 points) and a triple by Nunn to move ahead, 10-6. But UM responded with eight straight points — with back-to-back baskets by Max Bielfeldt (12 points, seven rebounds) — to jump-start a 12-2 spurt, with a highlight-reel dunk by Dawkins over Egwu, that made it an 18-12 advantage.
Illinois finished on a 6-2 run but Michigan led at halftime, 22-20.
The Illini tied it at 22 after a basket by Jaylon Tate, but UM scored the next eight points, with a jumpers by Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins and a drive by Albrecht.
Bielfeldt finished the spurt with a spinning layup and Michigan had its largest lead, 30-22.
UM didn't make its first 3-pointer until Zak Irvin (eight points, eight rebounds) connected at the 14:42 mark, but Nunn answered with a triple to keep the lead at five.
Illinois cut the lead to three after a 3-pointer by Malcolm Hill (11 points) but Albrecht had an off-balance alley-oop to himself for a layin that pushed the lead back to five. Hill scored nine straight points during the spurt to keep the Illini close.
Albrecht, though, added a deep 3-pointer with 5:13 left to make it 48-41. Illinois went on a 9-2 run and tied it at 50 on Nunn's 3-pointer with 1:21 left in the game.
After a couple of defensive stops, Michigan had the ball and held for the last shot.